The self-organizing properties of nematic liquid crystals can be used to align carbon nanotubes dispersed in them. Because the nanotubes are so much thinner than the elastic penetration length, the alignment is caused by the coupling of the unperturbed director field to the anisotropic interfacial tension of the nanotubes in the nematic host fluid. In order to relate the degree of alignment of the nanotubes to the properties of the nematic liquid crystal, we treat the two components on the same footing and combine Landau-de Gennes free energies for the thermotropic ordering of the liquid crystal and for the lyotropic nematic ordering of carbon nanotubes caused by their mutually excluded volumes. The phase ordering of the binary mixture is analyzed as a function of the volume fraction of the carbon nanotubes, the strength of the coupling and the temperature. We find that the degree of ordering of the nanorods is enslaved by the properties of the host liquid and that it can be tuned by raising or lowering the temperature or by increasing or decreasing their concentration. By comparing the theory to recent experiments, we find the anchoring energy of multiwalled carbon nanotubes to be in the range from 10-10 to 10-7 N m-1.
Schoot, van der, P. P. A. M., Popa-Nita, V., & Kralj, S. (2008). Alignment of carbon nanotubes in nematic liquid crystals. Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 112(15), 4512-4518. https://doi.org/10.1021/jp712173n